Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
IRS transcripts are a valuable source of information about your tax account. They can sometimes be confusing and do not always present the full picture about a taxpayer’s account activity.
Table of Contents
What is an IRS transcript?
IRS transcripts provide information about your tax account, your tax returns, wage and income and if you filed a tax return. They are built from the IRS’s Integrated Data Retrieval System (IDRS), an antiquated and complex system that uses transaction codes to explain the activities that occur on a taxpayer’s tax account. Transcripts provide line by line information about your tax account and tax returns. You can also see critical dates when an action has been taken on your account.
Once your tax return is filed, actions taken on your account are posted to an account transcript. For instance, you can see if a notice was sent. If the IRS sent you a letter it will appear on the account transcript. You can order copies of tax records for past tax returns, see your IRS account information, and request verification of non-filing letters. To limit confusion, not all the codes presented on IDRS are available to the public and won’t be shown on the account transcript.
There are different types of IRS transcripts.
- Tax Return Transcript
- Tax Account Transcript
- Record of Account Transcript
- Wage and Income Transcript
- Verification of Non-filing
Request an IRS transcript
There are three ways to get an IRS transcript. You can use an online, phone or mail request. The easiest and fastest way to get a transcript is to access your IRS Online Account. You can see tax return information, account information as well as wage and income statements. If you need an actual copy of your tax return, you must use the mail request method.
Types of IRS transcripts
The IRS offers the following transcript types at no charge to you:
- Return transcripts show most line items from your Form 1040-series tax return as it was originally filed. It includes any accompanying forms and schedules. In many cases, a return transcript will meet the requirements of lending institutions offering mortgages and student loans. It shows most line items from your tax return including your adjusted gross income (AGI).
Note: The secondary spouse on a joint return must use Get Transcript Online or Form 4506-T to request this transcript type. When using Get Transcript by Mail or phone, the primary taxpayer on the return must make the request.
- Account transcripts show changes you or the IRS made after you filed your original return. It will show things such as making estimated tax payments, filing an amended return and action taken. Basic data such as return type, exemptions, filing status, adjusted gross income, taxable income, taxes and all transactions made to your account since you filed your tax return.
Note: This transcript is available for the current tax year and up to 10 prior years using Get Transcript Online or Form 4506-T. When using Get Transcript by Mail or phone, you’re limited to the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years. If you made estimated tax payments and/or applied an overpayment from a prior year return, you can request this transcript type a few weeks after the beginning of the calendar year to confirm your payments prior to filing your tax return.
Record of Account Transcript
- The record of account transcript combines the information from return and account transcripts. into one complete transcript. It is available for the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years.
Wage and Income Transcript
- The Wage and Income transcript shows data reported to the IRS. Data reported includes Forms W-2, 1099, 1098 and Form 5498 and IRA Contribution Information. Current tax year information may not be complete until July. This transcript is available for up to 10 prior years using Get Transcript Online or Form 4506-T.
Verification on Non-filing Letter
- The verification of non-filing letter provides proof that the IRS has no record of a filed Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ for the year you requested. It doesn’t indicate whether you were required to file a return for that year. This letter is available after June 15 for the current tax year or anytime for the prior three tax years using Get Transcript Online or Form 4506-T. You must use Form 4506-T if you need a letter for tax years older than the prior three years.
Note: A transcript isn’t a photocopy of your return. If you need a copy of your original return, complete and mail Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, along with the applicable fee.
Use an IRS Account Transcript to get information about your tax refund.
Check the status of your tax return and tax refund
You can use a transcript to learn more about your tax account, tax return and tax refund. If the WMR hasn’t updated recently, the bars are missing or you just see Tax Topic 152 with no bars, a transcript can help. The type of transcript to see actions made to your tax account while your tax return is processing is the account transcript. An IRS account transcript can help you get information about your tax refund by looking at the transaction codes and cycle code. Account transcripts have various IRS processing and freeze codes. When your tax refund is approved transcript Transaction Code 846 is added. A date when the tax refund will be direct deposited or mailed is next to the code.
The codes used by the IRS on an account transcript are in our IRS Transcript Transaction Codes Index. Transcript transaction codes (TC) can help indicate if your tax return is being processed, what actions were taken, if there is an error and when your tax refund will be issued. You can also see adjustments made to your account after the tax return was filed.
Transaction Code 846 indicates your tax refund will be issued and the date to the right is when you can expect a direct deposit or when a check will be mailed.
- If you can order both the account and the return transcripts, it can signal that your tax return is processing.
- In some cases people receive blank pages which likely means a tax return is still processing.
- A good indicator that your current year return is processing is if you had a change of address. If the system accepts your new address then it can be an indicator that your return is being processed. This doesn’t mean your return doesn’t have problems.
When do IRS transcripts update
Updates to transcripts can happen daily. Larger updates occur twice weekly. When a transaction posts to your account transcript, the IRS Where’s My Refund tool should update with more information on the following day. Check our IRS Transcript and WMR Update Calendar or how the update cycle works for more information about when transcripts update.
Common Transaction and Error Codes
Transcript Code 846 - Refund of Overpayment is the code that signals a date when a tax refund will be deposited or mailed. Transcript Code 570 - Additionally Liability Pending/or Credit Hold is a code that means there might be a problem and your tax refund could be delayed. Transcript Code 826 Overpayment Transferred is a code that means that a refund will be used to pay old debts. Full Index of Transcript Codes
What the IRS Says about Transcripts
The IRS says transcripts will not help you, but we don’t agree. It’s not opinion. It’s facts. We see it year after year. We received the email below from the IRS Social Media Director. It refutes the evidence that an account transcript can help you find the status of your tax refund. As you see from their claim below, the IRS does not acknowledge that using a transcript can help identify the status of your tax return and tax refund.